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If In Doubt, Sit Them Out

With concussion and brain injuries at the forefront of the conversation surrounding contact sports, concussion guidance has now been released. Hailed as a world leading landmark in sports concussion management, participants in grassroots sports will now be better protected from the potentially devastating effects of head injuries and concussion thanks to the new official guidelines of ‘if in doubt, sit them out’.

Last year I wrote about the ‘ticking time bomb’ class action lawsuit against World Rugby for negligence and their failure to protect players from the risks caused by concussion. The latest chapter in this ground breaking landmark case shows a further 55 amateur rugby players have now joined the lawsuit, taking this class action to over 250 individuals. Therefore the introduction of this much needed guidance couldn’t have come at a better time when there has been a much needed focus on the awareness and concern of head injuries.

The Government and the Sport and Recreation Alliance has now published the first UK-wide Concussion Guidelines for Grassroots Sport which will help players, coaches, parents, schools, National Governing Bodies and sports administrators to identify, manage and prevent the issue.

Sports Minister Stuart Andrew said: “Sports keeps us healthy and active but it is not without risk and major injuries to the head can and do happen. Research has shown the importance of fast and effective tailored treatment and we are issuing expert guidance to help people sport and treat head injuries. Whether used in a local leisure centre during a swimming lesson or on a village green during a cricket match, the guidance will make a real difference to people’s lives.”

What is concussion?

Concussion has been described as ‘a traumatic brain injury resulting from a blow to the head or body which results in a disturbance of brain function. A range of signs and symptoms are typically seen, affecting the player’s thinking, memory, mood, behaviour, level of consciousness, and various physical effects. Recovery typically happens over a period of days or weeks, although in some cases symptoms may be prolonged. Playing on with symptoms of concussion can make them worse, significantly delay recovery, and, should another head injury occur, result in a more severe injury and in rare cases, death.

What is the guidance and what does it mean?

‘If in doubt, sit them out’ is the strap line, making it clear that anyone with a suspected concussion should be immediately removed from play.

The guidance states you should familiarise yourself with the following steps:

  • RECOGNISE the signs of concussion;
  • REMOVE anyone suspected of being concussed immediately and;
  • RETURN safely to daily activity, education/work and, ultimately, sport.

Furthermore, the guidance states that anyone with a suspected concussion should not return to sports within 24 hours. The guidance also recommends calling NHS 111 within 24 hours of a potential concussion. Whilst it is recognised that all injuries are managed individually, players should not return to competition before 21 days from the date of injury. Anyone with injuries that persist past four weeks should be assessed by an appropriate healthcare professional.

How do you prove concussion in personal injury claims?

The burden of proof is on the Claimant. Firstly, the Claimant must prove that on a balance of probabilities that the negligence caused, or materially contributed to their injury. Secondly, the Claimant must show their consequential losses flow from their injury. And lastly, if the Claimant developed a risk of developing symptoms, the Claimant must prove the risk is above a 50% chance.

What should I do if I’m injured in contact sports?

If you’re injured playing contact sports with your school or with a club, there’s a couple of things you should do. First, seek medical attention, it is important that you are properly assessed. Secondly, ensure the accident and the medical assessment is reported in writing. Lastly, you should also take details of anyone that witnessed the incident.

If you’ve been injured or suspect that someone has suffered from concussion when playing sports, contact our specialist Personal Injury team and we’d be happy to talk to you. Alternatively, please call us today on 0330 822 3451 or request a call back from us.

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